Complications of advanced Parkinson's disease

Medical problems are more likely to occur during the later stages of Parkinson's disease. These may include:

  • Injuries caused by falling, such as broken bones, which are a common complication of Parkinson's disease. Falls may occur as a result of unsteadiness, posture problems, or freezing (sudden inability to move) while the person is walking.
  • Dementia, which sometimes develops as a result of Parkinson's disease. Dementia is a decline in mental abilities, including memory, intelligence, judgment, language, and the ability to learn and interact with other people.
  • Infections of the urinary tract, which may develop more often because of problems controlling urination. Infection can spread from the urinary tract into the bloodstream, causing more serious problems.
  • Weight loss, which may occur as a result of a poor diet or difficulties with eating.
  • Constipation, which is a common problem that may be caused by the disease itself or may be related to the medications used to treat Parkinson's.
  • Weakening of the muscles in the lungs and chest, which makes coughing and clearing the lungs difficult and may lead to pneumonia.
  • Blood clots, which may form in the legs as a result of inactivity and long periods of time spent lying in bed. Blood clots may travel through the heart or to the lungs, where they can be fatal.

People with advanced Parkinson's disease who have been using levodopa for a long time also are likely to develop new movement problems, commonly referred to as motor fluctuations. These complications are caused by a combination of the disease itself and the medications used to treat it, and they are usually difficult to avoid because almost everyone who has Parkinson's disease eventually needs to take levodopa for an extended period of time.

Last Updated: December 8, 2008

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